Critics said the new measures will drive up the cost of building new homes by almost $10,000, in a state already facing a housing crisis and soaring construction costs.
In addition, new ventilation requirements will apply to new homes and healthcare facilities. It represents the state's latest step to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
The commission projects that more than 100,000 single-family homes and nearly 50,000 multi-family buildings will be built across the state in 2020. The new rule is expected to increase that number to about 80,000. By combining the solar panels with other requirements such as better insulation, the updated building code will make new homes net-zero electricity users.
Leasing options will be available for those who do not wish to invest in a solar system upfront.
The new mandate does offer exceptions where solar power is not feasible or cost effective, such as homes located entirely under shade.
"California has always been home to pioneering solar policies, and we applaud today's decision to require solar power on all new homes", says Michelle Kinman, clean energy and transportation program director for Environment California Research & Policy Center.
California is already the nation's No. 1 market for solar installation.
"On the one hand, we would prefer that this had been put off for a few more years, but the fact is that the California Energy Commission has been working on this, with us, for the past 10 years", he said. The current standards offer a solar-only credit, allowing for a trade off between solar power and energy efficiency.
A key element in crafting the new standards was to ensure that the efficiency upgrade and solar systems would be affordable to all Californians.
Delforge says that the increase in construction costs due to the solar panel mandate is "only half the equation", and the monthly savings in utility bills for residents will outweigh the burden down the line.
"Making California homes more energy-efficient is part of a broader initiative to shrink the state's greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030".
California, which has the largest GDP of any state and is now the fifth largest economy in the world, continues to pursue ambitious climate goals in spite of the Trump administration's dismantling of climate treaties and nationwide clean energy and air standards.
The big problem with the California Energy Commission's new mandate-which passed on May 9 and goes into effect in 2020-is cost.
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